The Canadian artist knew he was going to create something big. Hall was drawn to large animals, especially those that had community and social structures, similar to what we know as humans. Hall found a story that caught his attention—it was the story of Hope, an orca that beached and died on the coast of Washington State in 2002. A necropsy found that the female animal contained the highest level of contaminants ever recorded in an orca, along with signs of significant bone loss and a bacterial infection. The Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) led the effort behind the removal of Hope from the shore, and subsequent necropsy.
In 2011, the Idaho Virtualization Laboratory created a 3D scan of the skeleton, before it was put on display at PTMSC. Hall began to build prototype pieces based on the 3D data. He chose wood, and specifically cedar, as his medium. The cedar, Hall says, is an “homage to totem carving, and its role in passing knowledge to future generations,” honoring the traditional use of cedar by First Nations for totem poles in the Pacific Northwest. For it to go on display at various museums, the piece—which he named Legacy—would have to be made travel-ready, meaning it could be put up and taken down in a relatively short period of time, and displayed in a variety of ways based on the available space. Hall’s background in mechanical engineering came in handy at this point—“It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle” he says.